Rarely will I find something addressed by me for me. Today I stumbled over some clumsy pencilled words of wisdom from pre-adult Lucy to my current self, on expectations of marriage soon after graduating university, climbing the ladder in civil engineering (to at least chartered engineer status by now) and starting a large family, with much advice on how I wanted to raise children. You know, in case I forgot what it was like to be a child. Honestly. I was planning my future.
This was nearly twenty years ago. I had forgotten I had written it. I don’t believe I have forgotten what it felt like to be a child. Unwittingly perhaps, I am parenting with the same family values I felt so strongly back then. Now I look ahead to the next twenty years with a more subtle wisdom of years gained. I feel the same age inside, and much younger and far more inept than the self-absorbed, arrogant, naive and frustrated seventeen year old who felt no right to opinions which wanted to burst out and be heard. I would have blogged badly. Very badly.
What did I write in 1995? A short selection might be appropriate.
“here’s a list of things I’ve noticed adults doing right: (generally speaking – mainly my parents)
- letting kids grow up as individuals,
- teaching kids about Jesus,
- letting them learn through their own mistakes,
- not influencing opinions consciously too much,
- getting on with homework and not complaining too often [not sure what this means now],
- buying Birthday/Christmas presents that were asked for,
- allowing me to wear jeans, trousers and so on, without make-up,
- gradually allowing/giving some responsibility and freedom,
- giving in on choice of TV programmes,
- supplying a range of educational resources at home,
- giving n lifts to evening meetings (n tending to infinity), but not going out themselves [I was doing maths-related ‘A’ levels at the time],
- getting up in the night to see to problems,
- ‘family’ holidays with education built in,
- not sending me to a private school,
- making sure kids have musical experience”
Things I wanted to do as a parent, before I had even left school: [a partial list]
- Be seen to be in control,
- Spend time regularly with all [children] together and separately,
- Not dictate what they wear, listen to, etc, and be prepared to share interests, as long as they appreciate the social effects, [?!]
- Emphasise the marriage relationship as special,
- Do things they want to do too, i.e. not just stately homes, refusing to go to theme parks, [perhaps a hint of bitterness?]
- Build an atmosphere of sharing and helping each other,
- Listen to kids reading,
- Take an interest in what they’re doing,
- Share responsibilities e.g. pets, food etc,
- Appreciate that everyone is learning and not laugh at or moan about quality,
- Encourage everyone in what they’re good at and improving in,
- Challenge kids to learn music and do outside academic things if they are genuinely interested,
- Do educational fun things like Lego or nature walks,
- Not put anybody down in front of anybody else – respect and love everyone for who they are,
- Invite friends round regularly and share stuff,
- Don’t come up with embarrassing phrases,
- Encourage laughter.
Well, well, well, younger me. What a funny creature you were. And still are. And how much you still have to learn. And still do. I’m not sure I have the life-experience to write so authoritatively any more, but thank you for reminding me of what I had hoped to become. You didn’t achieve half the things you thought you would, but you actually didn’t do too badly you know. Lighten up on yourself and be kind to yourself. Stop analysing, and Live. Be alive and take strength from God’s enormous Grace, not your human achievements. You are already utterly valuable, though you don’t see it. Beautiful, though you don’t want to believe it. Unique, though you currently resist it. Badly. And, as you caught yourself saying to your children this evening at tooth-brushing time: ‘you’ll pass in a crowd with a great big push’. Embrace it!